Thanon Khao San - © Mark Parren Taylor/Time Out
Alex Garland's 1997 novel The Beach opens in a Khao San flopthouse, immortalising the world's most infamous haunt for budget travellers. Now Khao San ('street of uncooked rice') has gentrified, with 'flashpackers' wheeling backpacks to boutique digs and hip Thais relishing a parallel nightlife scene.
The first guesthouses opened in 1982 to soak up the human flotsam from the city's bicentennial celebrations. A few wooden shophouses remain, along with converted mansions like the Starbucks in Sunset Street. For transients, the road is one long bucket shop, for air, bus and ferry tickets, not to mention fake ID. It also flogs clothes, beachwear and sandals - and services to 'buy anything', fill iPods or braid hair. The second-hand bookshops have great, serious selections. Meanwhile, costumed Akha tribesfolk pester everyone to buy silverware.